Paul Thek

Marcel Duchamp once said that “a picture dies after a few years like the man who painted it. Afterward it’s called the history of art.” The process, however, is not inevitable: as Chris Dercon writes in his catalogue foreword for Paul Thek—The wonderful world that almost was, the history of art has seriously undervalued the work of Paul Thek. The exhibition, organized by Roland Groenenboom, provides the opportunity to judge whether Thek’s art now has the historicity necessary to be more fully assessed and appreciated.

There are a number of reasons behind Thek’s neglect. For one thing, he spent the most productive years of his career as a nomadic American expatriate in Europe, remaining obscure to the U.S. art audience. Unfortunately, he also remained obscure to most Europeans. Thek tended to work with unstable materials, and to present his art as work in progress. As many other installation-

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